As Covered by Harper’s Weekly, January 30, 1904
I have to admit, I was kind of hunting for coverage of the Wright Brothers when I started sorting through a pile of Harper’s Weekly from 1903-1904. I lucked out and found the article by carefully paging through each issue and noting just about every single item included inside. Looking at this issue of Harper’s Weekly 103 years later it’s shocking to see how brief the coverage of the Wright Brothers is (by the way, I had the following week’s issue too, and there was no follow-up article).
The article is buried in the back of the issue, there are no photos whatsoever, and it is one long paragraph. The text takes up part of one column and is only four and a half inches long! And to make matters worse, poor Wilbur Wright is referred to as William, though they did manage to get Orville’s name correct.
What follows is a scanned copy of the original article from 1904. Enjoy a little history:
Progress of Science
The Problem of Flight
That the solution of the problem of mechanical flight lay in the aeroplane has been the opinion of students of aeronautics for several years, and now that such a machine has been constructed and has actually been in flight under its own power, this feeling is strengthened. In a test near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the aeroplane designed by William and Orville Wright rose from the ground with its own power, remained in flight for a period of fifty-seven seconds at a speed of about ten miles and hour, and finally landed safely with its passengers. In previous tests, for example, with the enormous mechanisms constructed by Sir Hiram Maxim and more recently by Professor Langley, there had not been actual flight for any sustained period. If we think of a bird soaring, or a kite, we have the underlying idea of the aeroplane, which consists of a frame so covered as to present one or more surfaces of considerable extent parallel to the earth, so that the upward pressure of the air will tend to support it against the action of gravity. In the case of the Wright aeroplane the power was supplied by a sixteen-horse-power gasolene motor, which was able to drive the aeroplane at a speed of thirty-one miles an hour relative to the wind, which was blowing at a rate of about twenty-one miles an hour. The aeroplane had a surface of 510 square feet, and weighed a little more than 700 pounds. It made four successful ascents. Mr. Wright, who has acquired great experience in manipulating the aeroplane in actual experiments in the air, and has thus learned the best adjustment of rudders, etc., was able to rise and land safely in each instance.
That was pretty cool, wasn’t it? Now just to give you a better feel of the period, I’ll answer a question which may have occurred to you: What the heck was going on in late 1903, early 1904 that was important enough to restrict the Wright Brothers and their historic moment to the back of the book? Well, following is the cover of the January 30, 1904 issue of Harper’s Weekly featuring Czar Nicholas of Russia, and underneath that is a complete listing of the other contents of this issue:
- On the title page with masthead at the top is a cartoon by W.A. Rogers “Can I Cut a Figure 4?”
- Full-page photo with caption of General Adna R. Chaffee, the New Head of the Army
- Travelling in England by Sydney Brooks
- Privileges of the Theatre by William Dean Howells
- Automobile Novelties, Collected at the Recent Show in New York City, is a 6-panel comic/cartoon by Albert Levering
- Full-page illustration by J.H. Phillips of “How Rome is Being Made Into a Modern City”
- Books and Bookmen by James MacArthur includes a photo of George E. Woodberry
- Full-page photo with caption: “The Crisis in the Far East — Illumination of American Warships at Honolulu Before Starting for Subig Bag”
- The Crisis in the Far East – Views and Experiences in Korea by Helen Gregory-Flesher, M.A.
- Full-page photo with caption: “The Crisis in the Far East – A View of the Harbor of Chemulpo”
- Some Recent Plays in Caricature includes small caricatures of Marie Tempest, Maude Adams, and others
- Full-page photo with caption of Miss Bertha Galland as “Dorothy Vernon”
- “The Coward” is fiction by A Constance Smedley
There you have it, be sure to add the January 30, 1904 issue of Harper’s Weekly to your want list!
If you’d like to read more about the Wright Brothers historic flight I can’t think of a better place to start than the Wright Brothers page on Wikipedia